Friday, June 15, 2018

And then, there was Cowboy Boots.

The origins of the Cowboy Boot are well researched and started life as riding boots for the marauding Mongol tribesmen. Horsemen wore red wooden heels and conquered all before them. The fashion caught on and was popular for centuries among nobility and horse riders.

English Cavaliers took the style to extraordinary lengths wearing thigh high riding boots with Cuban heels. Once defeated by Cromwell, the Cavalier Stuarts immigrated in their droves to the New World. They took with them their boots and many settled in the south forming the southern plantation class. After the civil war many southerners migrated west to Texas taking with them their noble footwear. Standard cavalry issue during the American Civil War was the Wellington Boot.

In 1815 Arthur Wellsley, First Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. The popular victor became a national icon and both men and women emulated his sartorial style of footwear. The modern Wellington had a low cut heel which was calf high and not thigh high. This made them easier to mass produce.

Unfortunately during the American Civil War unscrupulous contractors supplied below par footwear and many of the cavalry boots were mass produced using reinforced cardboard. Climatic conditions took their tool and horse soldiers suffered deep cuts to their feet. A Chiropodist General to the US cavalry was appointed at this time. Our lexicon was enriched with the word shoddy meaning manufacturers willing to compromise for profit. Right and left boots were introduced and they were most unpopular. As a result shoe manufacturers decided not to introduce right and left shoes to the masses for another half century. At the end of the war the federal government had half a million pairs of boots surplus to requirements. Systematically during the following years troops stationed on the frontier were supplied with the shoddy boots. Shoe historians believe the foundation of the cowboy boot trade in the frontier was based on the simple necessity for civilian bookmakers to replace defective military footwear. By the 1880's the cowboy boot was beginning to emerge as a distinctive style. Starting life as a dress Wellington or full Wellington, the fashion merged with the hard wearing lace up boot (or packer), worn by drovers. Later the three piece military boot was incorporated and worn by Hollywood's Cowboys.

Tejas (or Napoleon style boots) with their peacock flair and ostentatious inlays were worn by megastars Tex Ritter and Tom Mix and became incredibly popular during the 30's and 40's. Somewhat surprisingly today’s cowboy boots are really fantasy footwear fabricated by Hollywood but the history of their development mirrors the history of boot manufacture from Genghis Khan to modern man.

(Video Courtesy: Steven Foreman Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 16/06/2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Boots of the early Middle Ages

By the Middle Ages, boots were a type of slipper generally fur lined and worn to keep the feet warm by the higher clergy. From the late 12-14th century a popular lightweight short boot from France was the estivaux and another more tightly fitting boot was the stivali. The estivaux boots worn in England were worn high and wide on the leg. This forced the wearer to adapt a bow legged gait and had the added disadvantage of allowing rain to pour into the leggings. The stivali was worn tighter on the leg. The name stivali still survives in the German, ‘steifel’ and the Italian, ‘stivale.’ Boots were available in different colours but black was the most popular although red was also popular.

By the 14th century armed boots were reinforced with steel rods and chain mail. The military style was copied in leather boots and became popular with courtiers in the 14th and 15th centuries. These were worn by both men and women. At one time it was considered very fashionable to wear only one boot. According to Ribeiro & Cumming (1989), boots circa 1340 were laced across the top of the foot. Alternatively ankle length boots were elaborately punched with small cruciform holes. Fashions for ankle length long pointed boots lasted until the end of the 1400s and by 1460 seemed hose was worn with boots. Ankle length boots were sometimes protected with pattens and 1492 stylish men wore boots and shoes with rounded toes.

The brodequin was a light boot which had evolved from the cothurna and caliga. Until the 16th century, brodequins were light shoes worn inside boots and houseaux. The term also described an instep strap or stocking which young men wore inside their boots. Only in the 18th century was the brodequin found as a sort of a boot. Brodequins became fashionable footwear for ladies in the 19th century and were worn with fine linen or silk stockings. Brodequins were worn by dancers at the grand ball. The name was also given to a short army boot. Liturgical brodequins were richly ornamented silk or velvet stockings used for the consecration of bishops or the coronation of monarchs.

References Ribeiro A & Cumming V 1989 The visual history of costume London: BT Batsford Ltd.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

These boots were made for walking

Join shoe historian, Cameron Kippen discuss the history of Boots – from Cavemen to Cowboys on “Remember When” (6PR) with Harvey Deegan.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Boots :Roman Boots

The military boots were hobnailed and according to rank worn high on the leg. The boot was initially restricted to the higher ranks (on horseback) and used as protection from arrows and glancing blows. According to Pattison and Cawthorne (1997) boots became more popular with soldiers posted to colder climes and when victorious soldiers returned to Rome, they would have their copper hobnails removed and replaced with gold or silver tacks. Julius Caesar was reputed to have worn a pair of boots made from gold. Eventually boots were worn by citizens.

At first patricians wore muleas, which were red or violet coloured boots but these were reserved for patricians who had served as magistrates. Some authors believe the muleas has been confused with calceus patricius, a style of shoe worn by Roman senators. Citizens of Romans wore a boot made from hairy undressed hide similar to those worn by agricultural workers. The calceus was a boot developed at the end of the Roman period and was worn high laced on the inside of the leg and fitted with a tongue. Many boot forms arose from the calceus. The muleus was similar to calceus, but laced with red coloured thongs and only worn by emperors. The gallicae was a knee high closed boot and the espadrille was a boot with straps laced through eyelets and thought to be a more sophisticated version of the Greek crepida.

The calceus senatorum was a calf length boot worn by members of the senate. The boot was slit on the inside and fitted with a tongue and were generally black until the late empire when they were white with complex lacing. (Anderson Black J Garland M 1975). The boot generally had gold or silver crescents at the front. The letter "C" was embossed and referred to the first 100 patricians or nobles established by right of birth or privilege. These boots or bushkins extended to the knee and were fastened with four tags or knots. Plebeians and vulgar people could wear boots but they were restricted to the use of one or two knots.

Anderson-Black J. Garland M. 1975 A history of fashion London: Orbis Publishing.
Pattison A & Cawthorne N 1997 A century of shoes: icons of style in the 20th century NSW : Universal International

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Boots: From Pre-History to Antiquity

According to Broby-Johansen (1986) the oldest boots in the world come from a clay impression originating in ancient Syria and cave paintings in Spain depicting a man in boots of skin and a woman in fur boots. These were dated between to 12,000 and 15,000 BCE.

More recently Persian jars in the shape of boots were dated to around 3000 BCE. A Rhyton were more usually used as a drinking vessel but this possibly for human remains i.e funerary jars. Boots were also found in the tomb of Khnumhotep (2140-1785 BCE) in Egypt. All this would suggest boots were a style of ancient footwear found in and around the Mediterranean.

The ancient Mesopotamians wore boots made from kid leather with laced closures and according to Bigelow (1970) men and women of Crete (between 3000-1400 BCE) wore calf high boots tied to their legs with thongs. The boot had a strip of leather against the anterior aspect of the leg and was secured below the knee with a band of leather and the top of the foot was covered.

Later the Cretans wore a puttee (bandages) of coloured leather wrapped around the foot and leg with a thick sole. Hunting leggings were worn just below the knee.

In ancient Greece, soldiers wore high boots and they fitted to the leg and foot snugly and in some cases with the toes left exposed. The boots were laced up the front of the leg ending at the top of the calf. In Greek mythology the Amazons (a nation of all female warriors) also wore boots like men whilst most women in Greece went barefoot.

Mycenaean men (1600 – 1100 BCE) wore decorated calf length boots of pliable leather. By 5 BCE young Greek men wore white boots made of stretched material pulled up to the top of the calf and decorated with turned over tops in blue and green. The toe section was often highly decorated.

The Etruscans (1200- 550 BCE) were skilful tanners and made boots from animal skins and hides. A characteristic of their high and low boots was the curved toe. Historians believe this was caused by the way the boots were laced as the excess upper was towards the ankle. The boots were sturdy and covered the foot and lower leg. The section that covered the foot and the back of the leg was laced together with leather thongs.

Etruscan priests wore boots whilst warriors went barefoot. To protect their shins in battle they had leather or metal greaves. Soldiers wore fur lined rawhide boots with slashed foreparts and some were coloured and had embroidered cuffs. Leg bandings, in bound puttee fashion, were also worn and rose above the ankles.

Bigelow MS 1970 Fashion in history apparel in the western world Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Co
Broby-Johansen R 1968 Body and clothes: an illustrated history of costume London: Faber and Faber

Reviewed 20/02/2016